The Pittsburgh Penguins ended the NHL's 2014-15 season with a 2-0 victory over the last place Buffalo Sabres, clinching the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot by a single point and narrowly avoiding disaster. Including the victory over the Sabres, the Penguins won just four of their last 15 games. Failure to qualify for the postseason after such a collapse would've left many questioning the future of this Penguins team.
We love to use the term "choke" to refer to a team falling apart when success looked all but inevitable. Crazy things can happen in the world of sports and they often do, but witnessing a team's fortunes change from good to bad so quickly and in such a disastrous manner is always mesmerizing. Many factors - luck, injuries, ill-timed decisions - must come into play for something so perfectly catastrophic to take place.
Often times one team's collapse is accompanied by another team's triumph. In this case, it was the Ottawa Senators who almost cost the Penguins a playoff spot. The Senators finished the regular season with a 23-4-4 run to close a 14 point deficit in the standings and reach the postseason. At the end of the day, the Boston Bruins ended up as the victims, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007. While we can praise a team for their resilience and determination in pulling off a great comeback, we often get more joy from ridiculing the team that allowed it to happen in the first place. A team's failure is like a train wreck. We all know it's terrible, but we still want to watch.
The Pittsburgh Penguins may have avoided being referred to as chokers - at least for the time being - but many other teams weren't so lucky. Here are 15 instances in which the Heimlich Maneuver could've come in handy:
6 15. Bruins post record season, lose in Final
5 12. Red Wings finish first, lose in first round
4 11. Blues feasted on by Sharks
3 8. "It was 4-1!"
2 3. Red Wings ultimate collapse
1 1. Oilers allow a "Miracle"
The young Edmonton Oilers, led by Gretzky, Messier, and company finished the 1981-82 season first in the Clarence Campbell Conference and 48 points ahead of their first round opponents, the Los Angeles Kings. After splitting the first two games in the best of five series, the Oilers came out flying in game three, jumping out to a 5-0 lead. In what has become known as "The Miracle on Manchester", the Kings scored five third period goals, including a tying goal from Steve Bozek with just five seconds to play. Daryl Evans provided the overtime heroics 2:35 into the extra frame and the choke job was complete. The Kings would go on to win the series in five games. The Oilers lost to a team who finished 48 points below them in the regular season. Such a gap will never happen again in this day and age of the NHL, so this one will stand the test of time as no.1 on our list.
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